Blacks and greys are nice and solid enough, holding the darkness and the swirling shadows in place. Faces and eyes manage to shine despite some bright whites that can warp them. Detail is compromised by the age of the print and the damage that scores it, but still allows for lots of intricacies about the house. Karloff's brutish visage is very well rendered, always appearing deep, dark and sinister. The flames of the fire and the illumination from lamps and candles manage to poke through the gloom with realistic ease, although there are some issues with flaring.
It might actually be a quirky kind of fun to try to spot all the different types of scratches and flickers dancing across the screen. Only kidding, folks. It really is just great to see the film at all and there is nothing here to put you off purchasing it. The low mark is for the actual appearance of the print. The digital transfer exhibits no errors but when compared to a modern release, it would be impossible to grant it anything higher, despite the restoration.
Kim Newman also provides a few production in the short, but well put-together commemorative booklet that accompanies the release.
The Image Gallery, which runs for 1.09 mins contains some atmospheric, excellent quality stills, though, sadly, not that many.
And the Archive Interview with Sir Ian McKellen regarding his performance as James Whale in the brilliant movie Gods And Monsters (1999) is actually quite a let-down. Culled from the Tonight show from 11/2/99, the great Sir Ian, then fresh to big screen productions (yeah, it's hard to imagine him pre-Gandalf and Magneto, isn't it?) is there to give a little background upon playing the eccentric and troubled director in his dwindling years. Running for 5.40 mins, this piece is not that good, really. It doesn't have much relevance to The Old Dark House and the stuff about Gods And Monsters is fairly brief and glossed-over. McKellen is articulate and pleasant enough, but the whole thing feels a little pointless. Just a piece of filler, folks.
So, the Commentary is the grabber in this set. Just as well it's a good one, then.
The Old Dark House is an excellent film. It doesn't so much follow the genre clichés of spooky mansion flicks, as set them in stone in the first place. The trend would go to incorporate many terrific movies, but it is great to see the one that started it all. The transfer is very acceptable indeed without any defects on the digital side of things to speak of, but you have to make allowances for the age and condition of the source print. Extras-wise, there isn't much here, which is a shame. But the commentary is excellent and well worth a listen, providing a boundlessly comprehensive background on the making of the film, its historical genre relevance, lots of enjoyable anecdote and opinion.
But it is just great to see such a rare movie getting a release at all. The Old Dark House is classic of its kind and definitely belongs on any horror afficionado's shelf. Highly recommended.
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